You can hardly call it bag-snatching when a handbag is left hanging on the back of a chair, free for the taking. We regularly warn people about this unsafe habit. Worse yet are bags placed under chairs. These appeal to opportunists who operate on stealth, rather than speed.
We met the Hansons in Barcelona’s American Express office. They were reporting their loss when Bob and I popped in for our irregular count of stolen credit cards, a useful barometer and an excellent excuse to visit the nearby Il Caffe di Francesco on Consell de Cent for superb cappuccino.
The Hansons had been enjoying a lesser brand of coffee and watching the passing people parade at Tapa-Tapa, a popular sidewalk café near Antoni Gaudi’s innovative Casa Mila apartment house.
“We were in the corner and felt safe,” Mrs. Hanson said. “There was no apparent risk. Our carry-all was on the ground between us as we sat side by side. The bag contained my purse, our camera, and some small purchases.”
Bag Snatch Cafe
Bob and I went directly over to Tapa-Tapa, just a few blocks away. Umbrellaed tables were grouped invitingly on the sidewalk. Surrounding them on three sides, a row of potted ficus trees lent an air of privacy and coziness to the setting. The Hansons had been sitting in a corner, where the dense foliage gave the impression of walls and a sense of security. Rather, gave a false sense of security.
Behind the potted plants traffic buzzed on Passeig Gracia, and a dim stairway descended to the subway. Can you see the risk now? A person crouching behind the planters might not be noticed. He could simply reach through the “wall,” possibly with the aid of a crude hook, snag the bag, and disappear into the subway.
“About five a day,” the manager of Tapas-Tapas said, when we asked him how often patrons complained of stolen bags. Five a day! Yet management saw no need to change the set-up, and police paid no extra attention to the area.
Many an outdoor dining area is bordered with potted plants—it’s a typical arrangement. The close proximity of a subway entrance makes Tapas-Tapas particularly attractive to thieves, but the risk is universal. The solution is to maintain physical contact with belongings. Then you can relax, enjoy your meal, people watch, and appreciate your surroundings without worry. You can tuck a strap under your thigh, put your foot or the chair leg through it, or keep your bag between your feet. Most thieves would rather work on a less-vigilant mark.
As much as we love the city, there’s no denying that street thievery is rampant in Barcelona. Yet, bag-snatching, in one form or another, is a universal crime.
Bag-snatchers, like pickpockets, can be divided into two categories: the opportunists, who include desperate novices like my bag-snatcher, and the strategists, who create their own advantages.
Question to consider: is it better to leave your valuables in your hotel?
Excerpt from Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams
Chapter Five: Rip-offs: Introducing…The Opportunist